I ran the ORRC Vernonia Half Marathon for the first time in 2006 and it was a small race of maybe 100 participants. The course began in Vernonia’s Anderson Park, and they raffled off homemade pies at the end of the race. The organizers were really welcoming and the course was beautiful, (though muddy and rainy that day.) I ran it again in 2016 and found that 10 years really makes a difference!
There is a marathon option as well as a half marathon now, and the course is completely different, but it’s even more beautiful than it was years ago. In my opinion, it’s the best of both worlds in the “trails vs street” race debate. The ORRC Vernonia Marathon and Half Marathon will take you along the Banks-Vernonia State Trail on a paved road and along an old railroad bed so you don’t have to worry much about tripping over roots and rocks, but you still have the benefit of being surrounded by scenic woods and fields and the feeling of being off the beaten path.
The marathon starts at Cedar Ridge Retreat Center in Vernonia. Unlike more rigorous trail races, this one is mostly flat with a gradual uphill starting at mile 9 and continuing to mile 13 before sloping downhill from mile 14 to 21. The course is USATF certified and a Boston qualifier, so this would be a great one to try if Boston is your ultimate goal. Check out the course here.
The half marathon starts at Stub Stewart Park at Hilltop and it is a breathtaking place to begin your journey. The first mile is uphill, so you can get that over with before the gradual downhill, which lasts until mile 7. After that, it’s flat terrain all the way to the finish at Banks High School on the track. Easy peasy! The course for the half can be found here.
Both courses are mostly closed off to traffic, though the trail crosses some roads, so there will be some traffic control where needed. There will be aid stations and potties all along the course and Gu, Gatorade, and other snacks available.
The races are both point-to-point courses, and it’s advised to park in Banks and take a shuttle bus to your respective start line. The first bus for the marathon leaves Banks Middle/High School at 6:15AM and the last bus will leave at 7:00AM. The first bus for the half marathon leaves at 7:00AM and the last bus leaves at 8:00AM. If you miss the bus cut-off, you will be responsible for getting yourself to the start and there is very limited parking there (also you’ll still need to get your bib/chip in Banks,) so don’t be late!!
When you are finished, head to the Banks Middle School cafeteria for some hot soup, some snacks, and some beverages. You can even take a shower free of charge but don’t forget your towel! Plaques will be given to overall male and female winners and the top five in each division will receive ribbons. There are raffles to enjoy too … Those pies I mentioned from the 2006 race are still a Vernonia tradition, but now the prizes also include some awesome running gear.
As an ORRC race, this is a non-profit event with a volunteer race director. If you can’t run but are free on April 9th, please consider volunteering.
Lastly, there is a limited edition sling backpack included in your registration fee this year, but only the first 750 pre-registered runners will get it, so register for this race now!!
When: April 9th, 8:00AM Marathon/9:00AM Half Marathon. Shuttle buses for marathon begin from Banks MS/HS at 6:15AM and 7:00AM for the half marathon.
Where: Banks High School (12850 NW Main Street,) Banks, OR. You can park at Banks Middle School, at Sunset Speedway Park, at Banks Elementary, or on city streets.
Register: Here. Registration closes 48 hours before the start of the race.
Registration Cost: $80 Marathon/ $55 Half Marathon (There is a $10 discount available to ORCC members, but no discount on day of race.) The first 750 pre-registered participants will receive a limited edition sling backpack!
Packet Pick-Up: Available at Banks Middle School (12850 NW Main St) on April 8th from 3:00PM to 6:00PM as well as on race day from 6:00AM to 8:00AM. Unclaimed bibs will be brought to Cedar Ridge or Stub Stewart start areas.